Honorable Senator Boxer, 9/1/08
I have a question I would like answered by your committee, Senator Boxer. Do the big corporations and lobbyists dictate to the Washington establishment, or do the thousands of constituents who vote in the elections have some say?The dumping of sewage sludge used as fetilizer seems to be an EPA bending to the will of the big corporations. Against the will of the electorate, ordorous, bacteria and pathogen riddled sludge is dumped next to our homesteads because we "little people" do not have the wherewithall to fight the EPA and the big corporations making millions while your constituents are paying the price with their health.
I know because I have more than once been threatened with lawsuits by these people. Yesterday, the day before Gustav was to dump several inches of rain in the Grand Bay, Alabama area, sewage sludge was being spread in fields where severe runoff has occurred in the past. From the past there are pictures of the runoff with a black film on the top of it. Nothing is done about it because the generators, haulers, and users of sludge know the residents in the area do not have the means to fight them, and the EPA is a big sludge supporter who will do nothing to disturb the status quo.
I have been told by anonymous insurance personnel, who do not want to get involved, that this area has one of the highest cancer rates in the country. Several neighbors have died or are suffering from cancer at present. Can we prove sludge is responsible? No, but can you prove it is not. There are a lot of folks around here who think it is. Politicians, when told about the horrific odor eminating from acres of sludged fields, agree there is a stink, but say there is nothing they can do about it. I personally had a bill introduced into the Alabama House of Representatives concerning sludge, but lobbying by the sewer associations caused it not to even be brought up in committee. As long as the sewer associations are saving millions of dollars at the expense of those living around these fields and are not effected by the maladies sludge generates, nothing will ever be done.
The local sludge generation manager stated the City of Mobile has saved millions by spreading sewage on ranches in Grand Bay. How can you put a price on the misery and agony of the people living around these fields. He also stated they had been spreading sewage sludge before most of these houses were built. Maybe in some cases, but there still are plenty of us who live in houses that were here before the spreading started. To me these are pretty lame excuses for treading on the rights of citizens to enjoy their homes and land.
Please imagine this if you will. You have invited guests over for a backyard barbeque. Next to your land trucks start pouring into fields distributing the foul smelling sewage sludge. You hang your clothes on a clothesline outside to air out and dry. All of sudden here comes the horrendous odor that permeates your wash. You try to sit on your back porch to have a cup of coffee and read the morning paper, but the flies are so bad, you can not stand to stay outside. You go outside to cut your grass, but the foul odor generated by sludge gives you a sore throat and burns your eyes. All of these things occur frequently to residents around sludged fields so the rich landowner can save a few dollars on fertilizer.
There are new methods for the treatment of sludge being developed all the time that would eliminate these problems, but the EPA can only see the one solution of dumping sludge on fields. I get the impression the EPA is not interested in finding any other solutions. Until and unless something is done by you who control the purse strings of the EPA, nothing will ever be done to improve the way of life for the thousands of people affected by sludge. I have written these letters to express the thoughts of several who do not have the ways and means of expressing their own thoughts.
Sincerely, Gary O. Schaefer Grand Bay, Alabama